Change In Approach Benefits Weber





LAKELAND, FLA.—In his first year of professional baseball, righthander Thad Weber nearly averaged a strikeout per inning.

Last year Weber's strikeouts went down—and his profile as a pitching prospect went up.

Doesn't make sense, does it?

"When he came to us, (Weber) was a guy trying to miss bats," said Jon Matlack, the Tigers' minor league pitching coordinator. "He has a sharp-breaking curve, but he needed to trust his fastball and develop a changeup he could rely on.

"When he did that, it allowed him to put his best foot forward."

Weber, a 16th-round pick in 2008 out of Nebraska, has a fastball that touches 92 but sits at 89-90 mph. Entering 2009 he worked on using both two- and four-seam fastballs and a changeup to mix with his curve.

He had success with that approach in high Class A Lakeland, posting a 2.13 ERA in 12 starts. A midseason promotion to Double-A Erie slowed his momentum, but Weber still finished with a 4.06 ERA in 13 starts there.

"He wasn't worried about what the batter would do," Matlack said. "Instead he took the approach that the batter would have to deal with him.

"He trusted his stuff, established (control) of the inside part of the plate and wasn't overly careful."

Weber gained confidence in his time with the SeaWolves, winning six of his last nine starts and going 3-0, 3.13 in August.

His best performance was a no-hitter against Eastern League champ Akron on Aug. 22 in which Weber struck out 10 and was a hit batsman and an error away from a perfect game.

"I think his improvement came from developing a trust in his stuff and in what he was doing," Matlack said. "If the guy on the mound knows what he's doing and believes in himself, it seems a pitcher can create his own success."

Still, some question if the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Weber can remain a starter.

"I would like him to stay in a starting role until he proves that won't be his best role in the major leagues," Matlack said.

TIGER TALES

• The Tigers signed outfielder Josh Burrus from Sussex of the independent Can-Am League. Burrus was a Braves' first-round pick in 2001 and reached Triple-A briefly in 2005.

• The Red Sox claimed righthander Casey Fien off waivers after the Tigers designated him for assignment to clear a spot on the roster for Johnny Damon. The Red Sox then tried to clear Fien through waivers, but the Blue Jays claimed him instead.